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How to cope with Christmas and the family

'Tis the season to be jolly, but it's also the time when we might need coping skills more than any other time.

Here are some tips on how to get through it all in the best possible shape.

  1. Make a budget and stick to it. You can still have a nice time without cracking the credit card.
  2. If there are stressful, 'prickly' family occasions you don't absolutely have to go to, don't!
  3. It might be hard to say no but you can do it (see my article How to say NO).
  4. If you do decide to go to a difficult family get together, be as positive as you can about it.
  5. Be pro-active - prepare for number two by using good self-talk leading up to the event.
    For example, "I know Uncle Fred might bring up that old button-pusher but I can cope, I'll ignore it. The more he pushes it the more I'll ignore it. I'll keep my cool. It's only for a few hours anyway."
  6. Especially – don't drink too much. You know this can be disastrous (no matter how stressed, happy or unhappy you are).
  7. Don't react when someone gets under your skin or things get prickly - respond. Think, before you speak or act. Know what pushes your buttons and decide not to let your buttons get pushed.

    Let it go

  8. Take deep breaths in stressful times. Taking a couple of deep breaths helps you to respond to situations rather than react. It gives you time to come up with a strategy – something to say or do that won't make things worse.
  9. If the Holidays are making you feel sad or downhearted, say, because it reminds you of a lost loved one, accept that this kind of grief and loss is normal. Tell yourself "I can cope and this will pass". Distract yourself as best you can. If the loss is a child, consider buying a gift appropriate for a child of the age your child would have been now and put it under the community tree.
  10. Don't feel guilty because you can't provide everything for your family that you think will make them happy. Lots of people feel guilty because they can't buy expensive toys or presents or have a holiday trip. Guilt is a destructive emotion and just makes you feel bad.
  11. Remind yourself (and your family?) about what Christmas is really about – celebrating the life of a person who believed in peace and love. Are these gifts more precious than a computer game?
  12. Don't wear yourself out – don't beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself – take it slowly – ease your foot off the gas pedal.
  13. Finally, if things go wrong and you can't get to a counsellor – there's always Lifeline or any one of the wonderful organisations that provide telephone and practical assistance over the Holidays.

Lifeline Australia - 13 11 14
MensLine Australia - 1300 78 99 78
Beyondblue - 1300 224 636
Suicideline Victoria - 1300 651 251
Kids Helpline - 1800 551 800